TAMPA — Lightning players were supposed to have Wednesday off, but coach Guy Boucher had other ideas.
After Tuesday's implosion, in which Tampa Bay allowed six consecutive goals, including five in the third period and three in 102 seconds in a 7-4 loss to the Sabres, it was time to talk. But instead of coming down hard, Boucher used a video session to turn it into a teachable moment.
"If you look at it with a calm mind and approach, yes, things didn't go our way," Boucher said after Thursday's practice at the St. Pete Times Forum. "What you have to control is how you react to that. We didn't react well."
"He brought us in," captain Vinny Lecavalier said, "to make us understand that we got away from our game by being emotional, by losing our focus."
Things went haywire Tuesday after Jordan Leopold scored 4:26 into the third period to tie the score 3-3.
Lightning goaltender Dwayne Roloson was knocked down on the play by Buffalo's Drew Stafford. But the referees let the goal stand because Stafford hit Roloson after he was tripped by Tampa Bay defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron.
It was the correct call, but Lightning players admitted they lost their composure.
They pushed so hard to get goals back, they lost the structure of their game plan, took chances and turned over the puck, which resulted in more Sabres goals.
"With all the emotions we went through, we weren't focused on the task," Lecavalier said.
Given that games will be even more intense as teams jockey for playoff spots and positions, and that the playoffs themselves are a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs, Tampa Bay must learn how to consistently manage those situations.
Especially with a team that, really, isn't deep enough to compensate when any part of the whole — in Tuesday's case structured team defense — is not working properly.
"It comes down to doing those little things all the time," defenseman Randy Jones said. "When you don't, it's going to cost you games and cost you points and possible playoff position. We have to fix up all those little loose ends now before it's too late."
Thus, the teachable moment.
"We need these games," Boucher said. "If you're always winning and things are going great, that's not when you're learning. You're just riding a wave, and when the wave falls down, you don't know how to swim back and get another."
"So the basic message (Wednesday) was that we sabotaged ourselves," he added. "We like to think nobody is going to beat us if we don't sabotage ourselves because it makes us think we have control over things, and we do."
Like Boucher controls when players get and don't get days off.
Not that players minded losing Wednesday's to deconstruct a bad loss.
"Not at all," Lecavalier said.
"You want to get it out of the way. We went through it. We talked about it. It's over. I thought it was a good thing to do."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/lightning.